Promise in the Dark


I woke up the next morning and found myself covered in blankets and my head on a pillow. I was
in Mrs Mwansa’s living room.
“You’re finally up.” Juliet was towering over me, her small legs spread apart and my body lying inbetween
them. I quickly sat up, memories of the previous night coming back to me at record
speed. I winced in pain; my brain was obviously trying to adjust to the reality before me.
Juliet stepped aside and stood watching me in what I can only assume was bewilderment. “I
thought you had died.” She said, the cryptic smile on her face sent a shiver down my spine. The
kid could be scary sometimes.
“Did you try to kill me?” I asked her, getting up from the beddings to sit on the couch. She went
straight to folding the beddings. “I can do that,” I said, trying to grab them from her.
“It’s fine just sit.” She said determinedly and continued about her business. I sat back and watched
“I am the one that saved you,” she added. “Your mother is the one that tried to kill you.”
“She has her crazy days too.” I said apologetically. I was used to people calling my mother names
and judging her so it became a habit of mine to ease people into such conversations.
“She does yes but I don’t think she’s a bad person.” The ten year old surprised me. It was the first
time I was hearing someone say something nice about my mother. Not even my mother’s mother
had anything nice to say about her own daughter so this was a first. I heard from the relatives from
mum’s side that the nicest thing grandma had ever done or said to her daughter was the day she
named her Beauty.
“My mother isn’t a nice person so don’t try to patronize me.” I went straight on the defensive.
“Whatever you say.” She said. She didn’t even bother correcting me. I knew she was just trying to
be kind. “I made some sandwiches in the kitchen, with egg.” She candidly informed me.
I gaped at her. “You made egg sandwiches?” I asked. “Aren’t you like four? You can cook?”
She looked offended. “I am ten.” She said between clenched teeth. “I have told you I am not a kid.”
She added sternly. “If you don’t want to eat you can leave I don’t care.” She put the folded
beddings and the pillow on the couch and proceeded to the kitchen. I followed her. I set my pride
aside because I knew I was going to regret not eating once I got home. There was absolutely no
food at home.
“I can pack these and eat later right?” I asked Juliet just after finishing the first one.
“I made them all for you.” She said as she sat back and watched. I didn’t even bother to ask why
she was not eating and just watching me because I needed to pack some food for Happy. Even
though I went straight to packing the food, her quick response kind of tagged at me, it was as if
she had expected me to pack some of the food. That’s why she had made so much and didn’t eat
any of it. I didn’t know whether to like her or hate her for making assumptions so accurately.
“Thanks for the first aid and for the food.” I told her as I stood by the door, ready to leave. I needed
to hurry home and feed my baby sister who most definitely had cried herself to sleep.
“You need to go to the hospital you know that right?” She said to my retreating back.
She was right but where the devil was I supposed to find money to go to the hospital. Such things
were a luxury to people like us. Nature was going to take care of the wound or I would just die.
Either was okay with me.
For the days and months that followed, Juliet packed breakfast and lunch for Happy and me. On
days that she couldn’t cook without her mother or sister knowing, she gave happy her allowance
money rather than give to me because she knew my pride wouldn’t allow me to accept money
from a girl. Every bone in my body wanted to reject her charity but we were so deep in poverty
there was no room for pride. I soon started saving the money she was giving us, bought some
flour, yeast, cooking oil and sugar and started making doughnuts to sell at the market in the next
neighbourhood where nobody knew who I was.
That was how I was able to put food on the table and pay our school fees because after that
fateful night of fighting, my mother had completely given up on taking care of us. Whatever money
she made from whatever business venture she was engaged in, she kept it for herself. She
completely changed and it was as if she had reached a point of no return. Once she turned black,
she soaked all parts of her into her web of darkness. She openly had affairs and lost all manner of
respect for my dad who kept drowning deeper and deeper in alcohol.
Juliet of course came to discover where I spent all my evenings after school and weekends thanks
to Happy with whom they had gotten close over the past year and she decided to join me. I tried to
talk her out of the crazy idea because I didn’t want anyone finding out about my business and
worse telling Mrs Mwansa about it. However, my determination to stop her was no match for hers
to help me and in the end it was decided that she could set up a stand inside the market where it
was more private and I would remain outside, closer to the busy roadside. And so Juliet and
Happy joined me in my small business venture.
Three months down the line, my worst fears came to reality when I saw a vehicle park on the other
side of the road from where I was stationed and immediately I recognized the vehicle…and the
woman behind the wheel. Mrs Mwansa stepped down from her car and came after me in wild fury.
“Where is my daughter!?” She was grabbing me by my collar and shaking me with all her might.
“I don’t know where she is.” I played innocent. As long as I kept my mouth shut, she had no way of
knowing the truth and since Juliet was safe inside the market, I figured we could all get away if I
played dumb. I could have easily admitted the truth and told her where her daughter was, I was
not afraid of what the woman might do to me, I most afraid of what she might do to her daughter
for disgracing her.
Mrs Mwansa had obviously heard something about where Juliet could be found and so she started
dragging me into the market to search for her daughter. Fortunately, Juliet spotted us immediately
the moment we appeared through the entrance and she grabbed Happy and their dishes and off
they went. Mrs Mwansa went back home that evening and found Juliet fast asleep in bed.
“So where did you tell her you were when she asked?” I asked Juliet the following day at school.
“That I was in the library,” She said nonchalantly.
“And she believed you?” I asked.
“How could she not?” The brazen twelve year old asked. “She knows am anti-social and I am
always reading something so it wasn’t hard to believe.”
“How did she know about…about the market?” I asked.
“Some woman saw me and mentioned it to her.” Juliet replied. “I told her she must have seen
wrong and that I wouldn’t even dream of helping you out because I don’t like you.”
She laughed. “I had to be convincing!” She said.
“I was about to get offended.” I said. “I thought we were friends.”
We both laughed.
Juliet and I were more than just friends at this point. She knew everything about my life and I had
come to know everything about her family. Between me, Happy and her, we had our own happy
little family.
Of the things I got to learn about Juliet’s family, the most shocking was that Mrs Mwansa was not
actually Mrs but Ms. She was not married to Mr Mwansa the mysterious and elusive special
government officer. Mr Mwansa was married to another woman and together they had six children
and Ms Mildred Soko aka Mrs Mwansa was simply his long term mistress. Nobody except me in
the wh0le neighbourhood knew about this shocking news and I could not risk telling a soul
because I had promised Juliet to keep her secret. Her revealing that detail about her life was her
way of letting me know I could trust her and I had no intentions whatsoever of breaking her trust,
even if her mother often pushed me to the very edge of temptation.
“Did you finally ask Cynthia out?” Juliet asked me.
Cynthia was a classmate of mine, a grade twelve and someone who seemed to have caught my
eye after Alice graduated from our school and left my sight. I had not spoken to Alice in over a
year which wasn’t surprising considering that she had travelled to Uganda to visit some relatives of
theirs there after her graduation.
Cynthia was like the younger version of Alice, she was sassy, loud and stylish. There was nothing
attractive about her character but everything about her physical beauty spoke to the younger man
in me in ways I could not explain. I doubt if there was a boy at school that didn’t dream about her
huge br-asts and big bottom because that was all she had going for her; her physical beauty. Like
the fool that I was, I was enchanted and I fell for me. It is indeed the curse of the poor man to
always fall for the one woman that’s completely out of his league, as if he needs another reminder
of his sorry state of affairs other than the conditions already surrounding him at home and around
Fortunately, despite my poor social status, I had one thing going for me, my pride and my grades. I
was the sharpest pupil at my school and in all the schools in the country put together. I had
managed to gain myself a good reputation in my senior years in sport and in academic projects
and I think that was the only reason Cynthia seemed to have taken a liking to me. I was popular
and she craved everything popular.
“I did.” I informed Juliet who didn’t seem to take the news well. “Why are you looking at me like
that?” I asked her. “I thought you would be happy for me?”
She chuckled a bit. “Of course am happy for you,” she said. “I am just surprised that’s all. Didn’t
think you would ask her out so soon.”
I had this proud smile on my face. “I am not fifteen any more you know.”
“I can see that.” She said, that same sad look in her eyes. “Anyway, I have to go to the library.
There’s a book am dying to finish.” She got up and started walking away before I could even say
For the first couple of months my relationship with Cynthia blossomed, I was in-love and for the
first time the girl loved me back just as much. Unfortunately, like most relationships, my friendship
with Juliet slowly became strained as a result of my new rom-nce. I no longer had enough time to
hang out with her even though she continued helping me out with my small business whenever
her mother was out of town. Unlike the many people I considered my friends at that time, including
my own girlfriend, Juliet appeared to be the only constant in my life, the one friend I could point at
without doubt and say she would always have my back.
And that fact never changed, even after her sister Alice returned with a determination to turn my
already spiralling life upside down.
Alice was my Achilles heel. I knew it, she knew it and so did everyone else. For a while with
Cynthia in the picture I thought I had gotten over my crush but Alice’s return from her vacation
brought a wh0le new wind of change. She suddenly had this deep severe interest in me. Whereas
before I did all the chasing, this time around she was the one doing the chasing. She sneaked into
my bedroom in the middle of the night and she followed me at school in the middle of the day. At
first I was suspicious so it was easy to brush her off and ignore her but as time went by and she
still persisted, I found myself thinking about her more and more and wondering if her feelings for
me where genuine. I hoped they were.
And the more I thought about that, the more I entertained ideas of what it would actually be like if I
had her. It was a huge boost to my once broken ego to finally have the attention of the girl that had
constantly rejected and humiliated me.
And like the fool that I was, I dumped Cynthia and started dating Alice.
“She will only break your heart you fool.” Juliet went at me the day I told her about my breakup
with Cynthia for her sister. By now I had grown accustomed to her calling me a fool.
“She’s changed Juliet,” I told her. “You should give her a chance, she’s your sister.”
“If only you knew.” She said and turned around to walk away, something that had become a bit of
a habit of hers in the past months.
I ran after her. “What do you mean if only I knew?” I asked when I got up to her and walked side
by side with her.
“Nothing, forget I said anything.” She said dismissively. “Just don’t come crying to me when she
breaks your heart, which she will very soon.” And then she gave me a sweep over glare and
concluded with; “Fool.” She increased her paced and left me standing behind to mull over her
True to prophesy, Alice did not delay to deliver on her true character.
I remember that day as if it was only yesterday. It was a Saturday afternoon, I had taken a day off
the market…something I had been doing a lot since Alice came back into my life and we decided,
or rather, she decided that we head to the mall and do some window shopping for fun. Naturally, I
felt the need to carry some cash with me just in case Alice loved something and I wanted to
impress her and show her that I was a man now. Unfortunately, true to her character, Alice fell inlove
with a dress in Pep Stores that was somewhat beyond my budget.
“I don’t think I can afford this one right now Alice.” I told her as we stood in one of the aisles just
next to the dress in question. It was an embarrassing moment for me, a loud reminder that I was
aiming for a fruit that was way beyond my reach. My pride was rendered bruised.
To my surprise, Alice was smiling, not a reaction I was expecting from a diva like her. She leaned
in closer to me and whispered into my ear; “you can just get the dress and walk out of here as if
nothing happened.” She said.
I gasped. “You mean steal!?”
She quickly put her hand over my mouth. “Don’t shout silly!”
“I’m not doing it!” I said sternly.
“Why are you being such a wimp?” She challenged me. “My friends and I always do it for fun and
we’ve never gotten in trouble before.”
“There are cameras everywhere!” I pointed out to her.
She chuckled. “It’s not like they work.” She said
“They don’t?” I asked. It was my first time actually stepping into the store. The most I had done
before was walked passed and admire the things inside from the windows. I had to take her word
for it.
“And if you do this for me, you know what reward you will be getting tonight right?” She leaned
forward again and whispered; “That thing we’ve been putting off for so long.” The thing she was
referring to was her withdrawing s€× from me. It was not something WE had been putting off, it
was something SHE had been denying me despite pushing me to the edge. She was sneaking
into my bedroom almost every night and doing all sorts of things to my poor soul except actual
intercourse. It had always been easier with Cynthia but Alice was hard to break. She thrived on
being desired and she was determined to keep pushing until she could no longer hold it in herself.
It was as if she knew that the more she kept me off, the more I would want her…and it was
And that was how I ended up spending the night in jail and the days that followed. I had not seen
or heard from Alice since I was taken away. Like a wind she came and disappeared into the
distance. As I sat in the corner in the cramped cell that night, Juliet’s words rang in my ears;
She will break your heart.
For the first time since I could remember, I cried that night.
To be continued.. . 
NEXT (episode 5)                                                                                   PREVIOUS (episode 3)

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